"Beauty often wins love. It just does," write Karen Lee-Thorp and Cynthia Hicks in Why Beauty Matters. No wonder women and, increasingly, men are willing to endure the pain and risk of elective cosmetic surgery to attain it. New York Times reporter Alex Kaczynski states it bluntly in her cosmetic surgery expose, Beauty Junkies. "In the end it all comes down to sex …. We are looking for love. And we will accept lust."

Few admit this with the aplomb of Cena Rasmussen, a former model who readily confesses that her cosmetic surgery addiction was fueled by the bliss of turning heads. By her own admission, Rasmussen has spent years looking in the mirror. Aesthetic surgery was a biannual ritual that continued for two decades. There were rhinoplasties, breast surgeries, lifts—eyes, face, neck—and non-surgical procedures as well.

Although she had medical complications along the way, her regimen ended with a hyalauronic acid peel in 1999 that burned the skin on her face so badly, it left her looking like a "freak of nature," she says. Since then, Rasmussen has had nothing but $4,000 worth of laser treatments to reduce the scarring. Still, she remains undaunted and is planning another facelift—her third, or is it the fourth? She can't recall.

Rasmussen may represent an extreme in the use of cosmetic surgery, but the trend saw no signs of slowing until the economic crisis. In 2006, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons reported that Americans spent just under $12.2 billion on 11.5 million surgical and non-surgical procedures. That's a 446 percent increase from 1997. Surgical procedures increased by 98 percent, and nonsurgical procedures by 747 percent. Liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, ...

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